The higher education market is going through a major shift in revenue sources as a result of declining federal, state and local funds; changes in student body demographics and composition; and how people are choosing to learn and teach today. As a result, funds from advancement, fundraising and development are more critical than ever for institutions of all sizes. This blog entry is intended as a preview of our upcoming live, free webinar on September 27, 2016 at 3 PM EDT; if you’re interested in joining the Performance Architects team to discuss in more detail, please register here.
Why Fundraising is So Important in Higher Education
As reported by the Council for Aid to Education in their annual “Voluntary Support of Education” report earlier in 2016, “Charitable contributions to colleges and universities in the United States increased 7.6 percent in 2015… at $40.30 billion, the total is the highest recorded since the inception of the survey in 1957.” However, as Doug Lederman pointed out in his insightful analysis in Inside Higher Ed, “A small and exclusive coterie of institutions is disproportionately benefiting from donors’ largesse. The top 17 colleges and universities – less than 1 percent of the total universe of about 3,900 institutions – accounted for more than a quarter of the contributions, $10.42 billion. And 60 colleges and universities, under 2 percent of all institutions, received $20.15 billion, half of the total.”
The issue here, according to Kellie Woodhouse in Inside Higher Ed is that, “The 20 wealthiest private institutions receive just 15 percent of their annual revenues from tuition and other student charges, according to Moody’s. The rest of the pack? Roughly three-quarters – the vast majority of their budgets [come from tuition and other student charges]…Wealthy institutions also attract wealthy donors: 60 percent of all money raised by the 500 colleges rated by Moody’s goes to the 40 wealthiest institutions, both public and private.”
This means that if you’re one of the “rest of the pack” there is a huge opportunity to diversify revenue streams with a little more effort and focus on development and advancement.
How to Improve Fundraising Activities
The old saying, “The devil’s in the details” is very applicable here.
- Implement a solution to track constituent behaviors across the lifetime of a prospective donor. Institutions are in a unique position where a constituent can hold many roles over the course of their lifetime in relation to the organization. It isn’t unusual for us to see the same person playing the following roles: recruit; undergraduate student; graduate student; research assistant; adjunct faculty member; tenured faculty member; donor; and relative of a student, donor, and/or faculty member. Schools cannot afford to allow old divisions between groups and divisions inside their institution to persist if they want to effectively fundraise as one unit to maximize donations. Luckily, the software and process to make this happen now exists, and we will discuss tips and techniques on how to make this happen during the webinar.
- Better profile current and prospective donors. The author of Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll, famously said, “If you don’t know where you are going any road can take you there.” Your fundraising team can waste tremendous amounts of time going after the wrong prospective and current donors because they aren’t aware of the profile of a high-likelihood donor, or how different age groups and audiences might prefer to interact with your staff. Again, the technology to investigate and identify strong prospective donors is now available, and we will discuss how you can apply this technology in your own institution.
- Organize for success. Change is difficult, and thinking as “one institution” about fundraising requires many of us to modify behaviors that have been in place for many, many years. This task is made doubly difficult because unless you have a top-down directive to change behavior, you’re often having to influence peers to make changes that are uncomfortable. We will provide pointers on how to organize for success based on our experience with many institutions that have implemented these kinds of fundraising changes and will provide case studies on how they started down this path.